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'Allen v. Farrow': Inside Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s Explosive HBO Docuseries

With their project focusing on Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, the directing duo continue their longtime mission of uncovering new evidence and aggressively holding alleged sexual predators to account.
Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick are locked in a battle of wills during a music session with a group of editors in early February. The directors are wrestling over a key moment in the four-and-a-half-hour docuseries Allen v. Farrow when the titular Mia Farrow confronts a chillingly calm Woody Allen during a never-before-heard phone conversation recorded by Allen back in 1992. Farrow launches in about their 7-year-old daughter Dylan's claims that he molested her.
"I just don't like the piano, the constant piano. It makes it sort of workaday," says Dick. "Remember the tone, what we came from. Things are happening, and then you go to a phone call, which is much more intimate. But the same instrument is doing the same thing. Would it be weird to pull out the piano and bring back the violins, the strings?"
Ziering counters, "It's good, Kirby. Let's move on. Let's agree to disagree."
The Zoom session grows more heated as Dick pushes back, enlisting editor and writer Mikaela Shwer in his defense. But Ziering's got supervising editor Sara Newens in her corner. "It's actually stunning. It's perfection. What am I missing? What is your issue? I don't even understand," says Ziering. "I'm going to die on this hill. Sorry."
The filmmakers reach a stalemate and agree to revisit the issue later. After all, the clock is ticking. In just two and a half weeks, the explosive Allen v. Farrow will launch on HBO, and the pair is racing to the finish line on a project they've made in secret over the past three years. Beginning Feb. 21 and airing in hourlong installments over four consecutive Sundays, the series offers plenty of bombshells, including the allegation that Allen and Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Farrow and late musician André Previn, were in a sexual relationship while she was still in high school, and the holy grail of the Farrow-Allen narrative — never-before-seen video shot by Farrow of young Dylan recounting the alleged abuse. Allen has maintained that he never molested Dylan. The doc marks the first time Farrow has publicly discussed her former partner and collaborator in decades and features Ronan Farrow, who once tried to dissuade his sister from participating.
Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow and Ronan Farrow in the late-1980s.
Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images.
Woody Allen, Dylan Farrow, Mia Farrow and Ronan Farrow in the late-1980s.
Long before #MeToo punctured the Hollywood consciousness, the documentarians tackled the powerful, among them Harvard Law School for 2015's Emmy-nominated campus rape doc The Hunting Ground and the Pentagon for The Invisible War, an exposé on sexual assault in the military that was nominated for an Oscar in 2013 and won two Emmys the following year. But nothing they've undertaken before compares to Allen v. Farrow, which reexamines one of the most high-profile allegations of incest ever.
Featuring scores of people who have never before gone on camera to talk about the subject — including many who were at Farrow's country home on that fateful day in 1992 — the series delves into the custody trial of the century and its impact on the woman at the center of the narrative, the now-35-year-old Dylan Farrow, as well as its broader reverberations.
"It really is a mirror to our society at large," says Ziering. "The way these crimes go unpunished and all the reasons they do, the way that all of us are unwittingly and wittingly complicit to some degree. Woody's persona disarmed all of us. We have this celebrity culture, and that gives them this shield of impunity. We imbue them with a certain trust and a love and then can't believe or hear the cognitive dissonance. We give their crimes cover."
Adds Dick: "He was like, 'I'm just this disheveled guy who is caught in the headlights. This vicious woman has come after me.' He is always painting himself as a victim, which again is classic. People who are accused of sexual assault, that is the first move they make. It's like, 'I am the victim because I have been falsely accused.' "
Mia Farrow (center) with her children (from left) Daisy, Fletcher, Soon-Yi, and Lark, circa early 1970s.
Courtesy of HBO
Mia Farrow (center) with her children (from left) Daisy, Fletcher, Soon-Yi, and Lark, circa early 1970s.
The genesis of Allen v. Farrow, which marks Ziering and Dick's first-ever docuseries, winds through the Harvey Weinstein saga. In 2016, the year before Weinstein was outed as a sexual predator thanks in part to Ronan Farrow's Pulitzer Prize-winning exposé in The New Yorker, Ziering was a member of the Sundance jury and was seated next to future Weinstein accuser Rose McGowan at a festival-sponsored dinner. "I don't know who she is. She doesn't know who I am," Ziering recalls. "I said, 'I did The Hunting Ground.' She goes, 'Oh my God, can we talk?' Rose tells me her whole story about Harvey."
A few months later, Ziering met with another soon-to-be accuser, Ashley Judd. They began pitching the Weinstein project around town, and "everyone said no," Ziering notes. So they moved on. Then #MeToo hit. "My cellphone explodes, and everybody is like, 'Remember that thing you pitched? Would you guys still want to do something?' " she adds. That's when Amy Herdy, the lead investigative producer at the pair's Jane Doe Films, suggested they pursue Dylan Farrow. Tara Lynda Guber, wife of Peter Guber, had once hosted a screening of Invisible War and promised the pair seed money if they decided to pursue a project on incest. Dylan Farrow's story could bridge the Hollywood #MeToo backdrop with Guber's call for an incest deep dive.
The Invisible War.
Courtesy of Cinedigm Entertainment Group.
'The Invisible War'
Still, enlisting Dylan Farrow wasn't easy.
"Ronan was working against us in the beginning," says Herdy. "He did not want Dylan to do an interview with us, and he advised her to not do it. I think he felt that it wasn't going to do her any good, that it was just going to subject her to more punishing backlash and ridicule and hate mail. And who needs that, right?"
But Herdy continued the conversation with Dylan and discovered some court records associated with her case that had never been made public. "I called her and I said, 'I think there is so much more to your story, and I feel that you're being, rightfully so, very guarded, and I really need you to try to trust me and open up and tell me everything that you possibly can because I would like to dive down the rabbit hole with you on this,' " Herdy remembers. "There was a brief hesitation, and then she said, 'Let's do it.' So that day she started giving me names — 'This person can corroborate this, and this person knows about this, and this person was a friend of the family and they saw this.' "
In January 2018, Dylan Farrrow sat for the interview, the same week that Ziering interviewed former hip-hop executive Drew Dixon, who detailed a harrowing claim of sexual assault at the hands of mogul Russell Simmons. Ziering and Dick worked simultaneously on both projects, with the Simmons exposé On the Record finishing first. (It premiered at Sundance in January 2020 to raves after Oprah Winfrey dropped out as an executive producer 15 days prior and cited "inconsistencies in the stories" of the accusers but also said she “unequivocally believed the women” in the film.)
For Dick, Winfrey has never given a sufficient explanation for pulling out.
 

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